Data Supports Need for Strengthening Development, Education of Nonprofit Boards

The University of Notre Dame’s Nonprofit Professional Development unit of the Mendoza College of Business annually offers executive business education to more than 400 CEOs and other senior managers from some of the nation’s best-known nonprofit service providers.

Prior to each new executive education session, Notre Dame surveys the executives on how they rate the quality of their nonprofit boards. (Take a similar survey.) After two years of such surveying, a pattern is emerging:

  • Senior managers rate their boards at a 7.1 level on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. In academic terms, this is a 71 percent, or a barely passing grade. It hardly indicates best practice.
  • Almost all participants indicate their boards have a policy limiting terms of service for trustees, as well as for officers. Yet, these same managers report that the policy is not observed by 20 percent of the boards. Similar inconsistencies surfaced in the basic function of annually evaluating the executive director.
  • Only 47 percent of participants indicate their boards use an annual self-assessment tool to evaluate their own performance as trustees.

This data reveals several interesting trends that support the need for strengthening the development of nonprofit boards.